I first discovered Frank Herbert’s Dune at the impressionable age of 18 and it made a huge impact on me. It was the most exciting book I had ever read. I have re-read it several times since, and it is still the most exciting book I’ve read. Turning its pages, I discovered a far-future world in which interstellar space travel rubbed shoulders with primitive religion and ancient prophecies; and evil tyrants and galactic emperors did battle with powerful corporate conglomerates, human computers, secret societies and good old-fashioned sword-fighting heroes.
During the months between leaving school and starting university I devoured the entire six-book Dune series, from God Emperor to Heretics to Chapterhouse. For me, one of the most intoxicating aspects of the stories was the way that the reader became privy to meetings in which the fate of whole star systems – galaxies, even – was decided, not by epic space battles, but my men and women sitting down to broker deals. It was obvious that these super-powerful people were extraordinarily intelligent and cunning. They concocted plans within plans, plots within plots. They anticipated every possible way the discussions might play out, and came prepared. The genius of Frank Herbert was to reveal the intricacies of these political negotiations and make you feel that you were just as smart as these impossibly-clever players.
I was mesmerised. And then… in the very last chapter of the final book, two completely new characters were introduced out of the blue, and it was obvious that they were perhaps the most powerful beings in the whole series, holding the fate of the universe in their hands. I waited patiently for the seventh book.
I waited, and waited…
Frank Herbert died in 1986, a year after the final book was published. What was I to do? Nothing could be done. The story was lost forever.
In 1999, Frank herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, together with Kevin J Anderson began writing and publishing a series of six Dune prequels. Initial reviews were lukewarm, and I resisted the temptation to read the new books, fearing they might spoil the Dune experience for me. In 2006, they published Hunters of Dune, a seventh book in the main Dune sequence, and then a concluding book, Sandworms of Dune. I was tempted, but once again the reviews were strongly negative. How could these new books possibly be as good as the originals? Surely they were just cashing in shamelessly on a legend.
I wish now that I had ignored all those negative reviews. Finally, more than thirty years after finishing the original books, I took the plunge and bought a copy of Hunters of Dune. It turned out to be a fabulous book, just as engrossing as Frank Herbert’s stories, and in many ways better structured and more exciting than some of the later, more ponderous books in the Dune sequence. Now, finally I know the identities of the mysterious old man and woman who appeared at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, and what they have planned for the universe. I can’t wait to read more, and am eager to get stuck into the Legends of Dune trilogy before returning to the main sequence and reading Sandworms of Dune. “Kralizec” – the long-foretold battle at the end of the universe – awaits.
So if you’re a Dune fan and have any lingering fears about whether Brian’s books are as good as his father’s I would simply leave you with the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear and remind you that, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”